Rice, a grain crop that comes in a variety of flavors and sizes, popular in many Asian countries, is a worldwide commodity. However, rice and foods that contain the grain, such as rice cakes, rice wine, rice flour, and snack bars, routinely contain toxic levels of arsenic.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, rice-containing foods, especially the ones possessing high levels of inorganic arsenic, a well known carcinogen, are associated with lung, skin, and bladder cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
In 2012, Consumer Reports released an important body of evidence recommended babies eat no more than one serving of rice formula per day, based on hundreds of product tests. That means just one serving of a rice-containing food can put a child at risk.
A 2011 Dartmouth Medical School study found that a pregnant women who ate half a cup of rice had inorganic arsenic levels comparable to individuals consuming an entire liter of contaminated drinking water containing 10-parts-per-billion of arsenic, the legal limit established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The two chemicals found in rice plants, inorganic and organic, are a completely natural occurrence. The rice plant is naturally good at pulling nutrients from the soil for survival and reproduction sake and, as it absorbs minerals from the earth’s crust, it also soaks up man-made pesticides and fertilizers that are then incorporated into the finished crop.
Levels of inorganic arsenic in rice can range from 7.2 micrograms, a millionth of a gram, to 2.5 micrograms. While these amounts seem rather small, it’s the gradual build-up over time that worries most researchers and medical experts.
It’s important to note that there is no federal limit regarding legally enforceable levels of arsenic in food.
It’s also important to mention that rice can be found in many popular gluten-free foods (brown rice pasta), non-dairy drinks (rice milk), sweeteners, and other so-called natural foods, so it’s important to pay close attention to labeling and packaging.
Making a conscious effort to decrease the amount of rice and rice-based foods in one’s diet is a great way to protect against arsenic, decrease the risk of developing various types of cancer, and encourage healthy eating habits.